Spider infestation closes school
An invasion of venomous spiders has closed a secondary school.
The infestation of the dangerous "false widow" spiders at the Dean Academy in Lydney, Gloucestershire, has forced senior staff to close the school.
The decision was made on advice from health and safety officers at Gloucestershire County Council and pest control experts drafted in from Chepstow.
The spiders were first discovered in the information computer technology block at the academy yesterday afternoon. The entire ICT block was closed today to allow fumigation to take place.
As more spiders were discovered elsewhere in the school, there was no choice but to close the academy to allow further pest control to be carried out.
A letter was sent out to all parents from vice principal Craig Burns, who said the decision had been taken in the best interests of the students' health and safety.
Mr Burns, who stressed that there had been no reports of anyone being bitten by spiders, wrote: "We identified an issue with 'false widow' spiders in the academy in our ICT block yesterday afternoon and therefore took immediate advice from pest control.
"We therefore made the decision to close the ICT block for the whole of today so that pest control could fumigate the area.
"Unfortunately, during this afternoon there have been further 'false widow' spiders identified in other areas of the academy.
"We have taken advice from the health and safety unit at Gloucestershire Local Authority and C&D Pest Control, Chepstow, and have taken the decision to close the academy all day on October 23.
"This will enable pest control to fumigate every area in the academy and ensure everyone's health and safety.
"The health and safety unit and pest control feel that we have dealt with the matter quickly and efficiently and taken appropriate early action.
"There have been no reports of anyone being bitten by the 'false widow' spiders at the academy but if you have any concerns please seek medical advice.
"Any pre-planned meetings, sports fixtures or extra-curricular activities will not take place. The academy will be open as normal on October 24.
"Please accept my sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may cause you but I'm sure you will understand that this is in the best interest of students' health and safety."
The false widow (Steatoda nobilis) is about the size of a 50p coin and is the most dangerous of the 12 species of biting spider known in Britain.
There have been no reported deaths from its bite in the UK.
Symptoms can include severe swelling, chest pains and tingling of fingers, with the severity depending on the amount of venom injected.